The missing link

This is a bit of a follow-up to my “Beginner’s Guide to Blogging” post this past weekend.

I really didn’t talk too much about links in that post, other than in reference to profiles and blog that don’t post much except for links – that’s what I meant by “being in the ‘linky-linky’ business” – but Penelope Trunk has a really good discussion about them. I don’t know whether my friend’s blog – if and when she gets it going – will be one that makes use of links regularly. If she’s mostly writing about family stuff, chances are it won’t use them a lot, other than to point to supplemental information about things they do (or to friends’ blogs).

But Penelope talks about several ways of linking, and how and why a blogger might use them. These examples are all appropriate on a personal blog, and I’ve selected them because I’ve used them (some more than others):

True-love link Sometimes I’ll fall in love with a link and structure a whole post around it. Like this one. And sometimes I’ll save a link for a year before I use it. Usually my links are very serious – to back up some point I’m making. So I think of it as a treat for me and the reader when I throw one in just for fun. Like this one, about how to recharge and iPod using an onion and Gatorade. Self-referential link Most bloggers have pet topics they go back to time and again. So it’s helpful to a reader if the blogger links to a few of the other posts on that topic to give the current discussion context. I do this a lot, but I learned to do it from the team of writers at Techdirt. Those guys are great at linking to other stories they’ve written on the same topic. I don’t read Techdirt every day, so if I happen to be reading, I can get a history of a given topic by reading their links. (This is one that you can’t really use much until you’ve built up some post history, but I learned to do it from Penelope. It felt weird at first, and in some ways it still does, but I did it at the beginning of this very post.) The friendly link Blogging is a conversation, and it is much more fun if you are part of it, instead of just talking at people. One of the great pleasures of blogging is linking to someone who I don’t think knows that I read their blog. A link to someone is like saying, “I really like what you’re writing and in fact, I want to share it with everyone I know.” A blogger trades on ideas, so recognizing another blogger’s ideas with a link is a big deal. And it’s so easy to do, considering how nice it makes people feel. So do it. (Yes, linking to someone’s great post in order to share it is a pleasure – and so is unexpectedly discovering that someone else has linked to you! That’s why it’s called “sharing the linky love,” I guess.)

Hat-tip link Sometimes, a blogger finds a very obscure piece of information, and links to it. Then, a blogger who regularly reads that blog also links to the obscure piece of information. It’s pretty clear that the second blogger got the information from the first blogger. And in this case, a nice little hat-tip is a courtesy – to say that actually, the stellar Internet research comes from someone else, not me. I do this often. For example, when I read this woman’s post because she blogged about me, and then I blogged about a link in her post. Here’s an example of someone railing against a blogger who did not follow the etiquette. (I’d consider this one a variation on the “friendly link” myself, but it’s important. One of the things that’s great about blogging is that it’s so easy to give credit where it’s due, and there’s not excuse not to.)

I’m on record as not always agreeing with everything Penelope advocates, so I’m glad to be linking to her and on the same page for a change.

My observation is that some posts are mostly writing, and I don’t really see the point of sticking a link in just to have one, if it’s not really relevant to what you’re talking about. But if what you’re writing is in reference to, or inspired by, something you’ve read elsewhere on the Web, it’s easy to paste in a link in addition to any quotes you use – and not only is it easy, it’s appropriate and correct to do so.

“Link”=”connection” – and isn’t that why we’re out here doing this?

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